I first ran this post over 18 months ago on a day much like this one. I don’t know what brings mine on hormones, changes in weather, sugar. But when they hit, I can barely think. So today, I hope you’ll forgive a repost, and I hope you’ll share your stories of what it feeels like for you to write or to be in a place where you can only sit and bear up for a while.
I feel like Joan Didion this morning, but with a much less fascinating series of life experiences and absolutely none of the qualifications to make me a diva. . Oh, and I don’t have all the book credits either.
But today Ms. Didion and I are alike in at least this one thing – we both get migraines. In her classic essay “In Bed”, she details the way that people who do not suffer migraines can’t really understand them. “Take a couple aspirin,” they might say. But for those of us with these debilitating pains (the one I have now feels like an ice pick is being pounded from my eye to the back of my skull), there are anything but imaginary or easily treated. This is the reality of this pain.
This is, I think, also the reality of writing, sometimes. It can seem, on occasion, that all I need to do is write down some words, and then I feel accomplished, successful, focused. But some days – “just write” is the equivalent of “take two aspirin.” Some days, that just doesn’t work. At these moments, what I need to do is to set myself in front of the computer and stare, for hours maybe, at a blank page, at random pictures, at the air between my eyes and the screen. I can and will eventually get words down, just as eventually the migraine will subside. But until they come and it does, there is not much do to but bear up and be where I am – empty, pain-filled and staring. From the outside, this can look like nothing – a figment of work – but it is work. I have to remind myself of this often.
This morning, from the receding side of my migraine and from the place where words actually come to my mind, I am reminded that all is not what it seems. What we see is not always all that is happening. On this morning, and most others, I am so glad of that. Now, if only I could remember it about others, and about myself.
When does writing feel like just the “figment of work” for you?